Cape Elizabeth teenager is youngest skier on World Cup ski cross tour

Stuart Whittier, 19, of Cape Elizabeth is in his initially time on the Entire world Cup ski cross tour. Very last winter, he was a significant university senior at Maine Coast Waldorf University while using aspect in Carrabassett Valley Academy’s weekend software for young skiers. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer Invest in this Picture

A previous mentor claims Stuart Whittier usually experienced a knack for carving his very own route on skis, actually and figuratively.

Properly, it is performing.

Just months soon after graduating from high school, the 19-year-outdated from Cape Elizabeth is a person of four People in america on the World Cup ski cross circuit. In December, he cracked the major 30 in his first function in Arosa, Switzerland, finishing 28th to gain Earth Cup factors.

“He’s a tiny different. He would like to do it on his very own,” reported Michael Phelan, the head ski cross coach at Carrabassett Valley Academy, the place Whittier figured out the sport while enrolled in CVA’s weekend software. “He listens to coaches, but he’s so disciplined and he appreciates how to get there.”

The youngest skier on the Environment Cup tour, Whittier is now ranked 53rd – last between skiers who have scored. But lots of racers have nonetheless to receive a level.

“I am pleased with that lifeless last,” Whittier said. “It’s really tough to get Environment Cup factors. It was a shock. It was a really fantastic race.”

“There are guys who have been on the Earth Cup for a few, 4 years that even now haven’t gotten out of the 1st heat, and Stuart did it in his first race,” claimed Mike Mallon of Yarmouth, the government director of the United States of America Snowboard and Freeski Affiliation and the former director of CVA’s ski and snowboard cross programs at Sugarloaf Mountain.

Ski cross, an Olympic activity due to the fact 2010, is recognised for its heat race structure where 4 skiers fly down a class at the very same time. The substantially formed programs combine freestyle ski functions like rollers and large-air jumps with the gates and turns found in standard Alpine functions.

When it became apparent to Mallon and then Phelan that Whittier experienced a specific knack for the activity, primarily his capability to “feel the features” of a class, as Phelan put it, they experimented with to persuade him to enroll at CVA as a comprehensive-time pupil. Instead, Whittier chose to carry on his academic reports at Maine Coastline Waldorf School in Freeport, where he ran cross place in the tumble and performed on the Greatest staff in the spring.

“So he wasn’t skiing nearly as a great deal as the other athletes, but he was so gifted from the commencing he just ran off with it,” Phelan mentioned. “And he did a whole lot of function on his individual. He definitely pushed himself to get exactly where he is. I served him a great deal, but he definitely receives most of the credit rating.”

Residence in Maine about New Year’s, Whittier stated his rookie season has been a each day discovering experience, starting up with a two-thirty day period teaching session in the Alps.

He stated he tries not to imagine about how quickly he’s gone from substantial faculty university student to a experienced athlete traveling and competing in Europe.

“I really do not consider much of it simply because, effectively, it feels pretty premature. I’m on the World Cup circuit, but I’m not always at that degree to be proficient at that amount,” Whittier stated.

Simply because of the coronavirus pandemic and strict COVID-19 journey restrictions, to this position only Planet Cup situations have been held, and some of all those have been canceled. Whittier reported he hopes some Europa Cup functions will be held. The Europa Cup is just one notch below the Entire world Cup circuit.

“The Europa Cups are however really iffy since of all the COVID limits,” Whittier reported. “I would say I’m a Europa Cup skier snowboarding in a Environment Cup, and that, I guess, I’m fortunate and it’s been remarkable.”

“The expectation for Stuart is really just exposure,” mentioned Adam Bourns, Whittier’s mentor. “He’s a younger athlete and we want to give him as much encounter as we can, from tactical to program environments to the pressure of all the traveling. His goals are not benefits-based mostly but extra to obtain just about every ounce of working experience and get him as assured as he can be.”

If Whittier can get into some Europa Cup functions, the technique will modify.

“At the Europa Cup degree, we’re pushing for him to be aggressive and get onto the podium and drive some genuinely great final results there,” Bourns said. “I believe he can do it. He has the capabilities.”

Whittier comes from a spouse and children that loves the snow.

His dad and mom, Steve and Libby Whittier, had him on skis prior to he was 2. Most of the prolonged household are regulars at Sunday River. An uncle was a aggressive racer and college ski coach. His cousin, Cooper Whittier of Cumberland, also 19, is a mounting star in the snowboard film scene, recognized for his tricks in city places and currently being named Snowboarder Magazine’s 2020 Rookie of the 12 months.

Whittier reported he shifted from Alpine racing to ski cross when he was all around 14, primarily due to the fact that’s what his mates have been performing, it seemed a bit friendlier than Alpine racing, and it was enjoyable racing “shoulder to shoulder.” As the level of competitiveness greater, “I recognized I was ready to ski those bigger programs with far more level of competition.”

Stuart Whittier, centre, on the podium immediately after winning the U.S. Ski Cross national championship in 2019. Photograph courtesy of United states Snowboard and Freeski Association

Though he ongoing to train with the CVA team only on weekends, remaining at Sugarloaf was a massive benefit. The CVA ski cross system is amid the best in the region and the mountain has a focused class for schooling. Gould Academy in Bethel also has a ski cross plan at Sunday River. And, the CVA coaches ongoing to accommodate Whittier’s wish to be aspect of the travel group but not be a CVA university student. “We really don’t normally do that,” Phelan mentioned.

In 2018, his sophomore 12 months of high college, Whittier moved up to the Nor-Am circuit, just one of the Intercontinental Ski Federation circuits that direct to the Earth Cup. Touring with the CVA staff and his father, Whittier had one particular leading-10 end and was invited to the Junior Earth Championship in New Zealand, wherever he finished 10th as the top American.

In 2019, Whittier posted seven major-10 finishes on the Canadian-dominated Nor-Am tour and gained the U.S. Ski Cross national championship, operate by USASA, at Copper Mountain in Colorado. Past wintertime, he experienced six Nor-Am prime-10s before the pandemic shut down opposition.

Now he is the only skier or rider from Maine competing on the ski or snowboard cross Earth Cup circuits.

Compared with snowboard cross, which Mainer and Sugarloaf merchandise Seth Wescott assisted popularize with Olympic gold medals in 2006 and 2010, ski cross is not supported financially by U.S. Ski and Snowboard. The firm does handle the bulk of the journey logistics for World Cup ski cross racers, but when it will come to revenue, the Americans are a self-funded bunch, responsible for employing their have coaches and securing what ever sponsorship offers they can.

Whittier has equipment bargains with Head (skis, bindings, boots) and Shred Optics (helmet, goggles, gloves) and a modest donation from the Vermont-based Flyin Ryan Foundation.

“Most of the fellas he’s racing versus are driving Audis and their names are on billboards in their home nation,” Mallon stated. “All the other nations apart from the U.S. have nationwide teams in ski cross.”

Mallon said Whittier’s ascension signifies a alter in how U.S. ski cross racers are created. In the sport’s early years, the top rated U.S. racers ended up more mature Alpine racers who switched situations to extend their occupations.

“So Stuart, he’s really breaking ground,” Mallon reported. “The amazing section of this story is, there wasn’t definitely a basis or a pipeline for ski cross in this nation. CVA acquired at the rear of this and Stu’s been ready to get it, and sort of produce a pathway and consider it all the way to the World Cup.”

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